The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has said that rule of law was needed to prevent corruption and avoid society degenerating into anarchy. In his address to the international conference on ‘Peace Through Law’ in Lahore, organized by the ‘Supreme Court Bar Association’ on Saturday, he was emphatic that the rule of law was needed to establish peace between Pakistan and India. The Chief Justice’s thinking was reflected in his saying that corruption was the result of an absence of rule of law. The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Mr Justice Umar Ata Bandial, in his address to the conference the same day, said that the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution were the only means for creating peace. He was thus to be found in agreement with Justice Chaudhry. Though he was referring to a different problem, that of the disorder into which society has been thrown by the war on terror, it showed that he shared the same judicial philosophy as Justice Chaudhry. Both showed thus that they did not accept any reasons of state as overriding the supremacy of the law.

There was much attention focused on Chief Justice Chaudhry because he addressed the conference the day after a bench he headed had delivered a landmark judgment in Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan’s case, about the distribution of funds by the ISI in the 1990 elections. His repetition of the need for the supremacy of the constitution showed that that was the principle that informed the decision, and would inform any future decision, even if it was about an imposition of military rule, which previously has always been done for supposedly the good of the state.

Chief Justice Bandial’s expression of much the same sentiments shows that Chief Justice Chaudhry is not an idealist that intending coup makers can wait out as an aberration, but reflects a deep-seated conviction within the entire judiciary. It is also worthy of notice that Justice Chaudhry related Pak-India peace through rule of law, because the core issue between the two countries, that of Kashmir, is essentially a legal issue, and needs the countries involved to follow the law to resolve it. However, such a following of the law in Kashmir’s case is only possible if the countries involved also follow the law.